Dear PoPville – Advice on Cleaning Up Overhead Backyard Wires

Dear PoPville,

My Capitol Hill rowhouse has always had a ridiculous amount of overhead wires crisscrossing my backyard. I assume the wires are power, cable television, and even landline telephones. After the derecho storm, many of the wires are drooping really low and some have even pulled loose from their mounts on various neighboring properties. The cables are an eyesore in my backyard and I’d like to get them removed or uncluttered. Unfortunately, many of the lines cross several yards and attach to rowhouses as well as an apartment building. Do you know which entity in DC has jurisdiction over the wires that cross multiple yards? Or is cleaning them up a function of each individual property owner?

I believe these are cable/phone wires. You may have to deal directly with comcast, verizon etc. Has anyone had any recent success getting backyard wires cleaned up?

30 Comment

  • My guess is PoP is right. Each company has to fix its own, and you’d probably get yourself in some deep doo-doo if you tried to fix them yourself (or hired someone to do it), even if they are over or attached to your property.

  • Good luck. I tried for 2 years to get rid of the nasty web of wires that cross my back yard and deck. Comcast bounces you to Verizon, who bounces you back to Comcast, who bounces you to DC gov, who knows nothing and bounces you back to Verizon. Allegedly people came out to “check on things” and couldn’t touch anything. I was even only requesting that the attachment points of the various wires on the pole adjacent to my yard be raised a few feet.
    I believe they are all telecom/cable wires and not power. Please post if you manage to resolve this as I would like to do the same. I finally resigned myself to the mess and erected a gazebo to keep them partially out of site.

  • Here’s another way to take care of it: Just chop that whole mess apart, and call to complain that your phone and/or cable have gone out. Then the technicians will come out and replace them in a more orderly fashion.

    • Absolutely DO NOT do this.

      One of those is probably a live electrical wire. You might die if you followed this stupid advice.

      • Go to Home Depot and hire a day laborer to do it.

      • gotryit

        It’s pretty easy to tell if it’s electrical power – just look at where the wires go.

        I can clearly see my electrical power coming from below ground into my meter at the other end of the house. The ones in back are just cable / phone junk.

        I’ve cut one myself, and would do it again if the company won’t make it a priority.

        • ah

          +1. Better yet, call to tell them your cable is out, find out when they’re coming, and then chop the wire down the morning they’re supposed to be there. Then you won’t be without service for too long.

          Unless they have an easement for crossing your property to someone else’s property, they cables to others’ houses should not cross your property. Pepco even moved my neighbor’s power supply when I complained that it was crossing our property (and fairly low at that).

          • jburka

            It’s adorable that you think that Comcast saying they’re coming on a certain day means they’re actually coming that day.

      • There shouldn’t be any electrical wires above ground in Capitol Hill.

        Though I think telephone wires can send a charge if information is coming through them.

      • It’s probably not a power line around here. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, you probably still want to be careful cutting any lines. I might carefully rip them off their attachment points though…

  • Yes, I got the mess behind our rowhouse cleaned up. Over the course of 5 years I pleaded with every Comcast and Verizon tech that came out (assuming I saw them), whether to work on my service or a neighbor’s. I persuaded a verizon guy to fix the phone wires last year, and this year I finally got a Comcast guy to move 5 lines. Instead of running diagonally across multiple backyards, the wires run over a pedestrian alley, then cut in to our house at 90 degrees.

    • I use this approach and have gotten some wires cleaned up over the years. Since many of the installers are contractors and only get paid on a per job basis, I have found they will clean up your wires between other jobs in exchange for a small tip.

  • I say just cut them and let your neighbors have to call comcast and verizon because their service is out. Maybe someone can answer this… Do cable/phone/power companies have the right to take an easement over your property?

    • Yes. Or more correctly stated, you or a previous owner already granted them an easement. So if you mess with their wires you are violating their property rights and probably committing a serious crime too.

      • ah

        Have them show you the dead to an easement.

        Pepco (and I know because I looked) simply requires you to grant an unrecorded easement as a condition of obtaining service that runs until you terminate service. So they can’t just leave the wire up–of course, you probably still want the Pepco service (or at least need it).

      • Easements are included in the master plan and have nothing to do with consent of the owners.

        It sounds like you may be thinking of adverse possession, which would not be relevant here (trespassing overhead wires do not constitute possession).

        Best bet is to check the Master Plan for your neighborhood, or if one doesn’t exist, consult the D.C. Code and D.C. Municipal Regulations.

  • DC Constituent services specifically Tommy Wells —

    I did this for overhead wires after a storm and they came out the following day.

    • Gee, it must be nice to have a council member who is responsive and who cares about constituent services. Mary Cheh represents my ward, and she never, EVER responds to my e-mails. Guess it’s because I’m not on the donor list.

      • And what’s weird is that Tommy Wells gets a really bad wrap in local blog and newspaper comments.

        But he, or more accurately, his staff takes care of these kinds of things in a day. It’s astonishing. I want to keep him in office just to keep his staff doing everything they can for me.

        • Agreed. The only time I don’t get immediate response and follow-through action from Tommy Wells’ office is when I send an e-mail note to thank them for the great work they do. I guess they’re too busy and too modest for that. He’s a wonderful Council Member.

    • this is the credited response.

  • We had a wire come loose a few months ago and it was hanging very low, actually laying on the deck. Since I wasn’t sure what it was, I called my landlord who said it looked like a phone wire. She called Verizon, who said it wasn’t a priority to come look at it. She in turn told them that if they didn’t come take care of it, she would just go ahead and cut it. They were there two days later, fixing the problem.

    Sometimes it takes some tough love…

  • i got tons of ivy growing up the pole, and all over the wires. muaahahahaha

  • Build a giant Ark next to it and make a board “fall” on them. Tell them that you are Moses, that should work.

  • I have a spiderweb of wires across my back yard, all cable and phone. Electrical is underground where I live. I long ago cut down the wires to my house that I didn’t want. If one leading to a neighbor’s came unconnected, I would probably wait a reasonable time for it to be fixed and then just cut it.

  • I think you should just take matters into your own hands. Obviously, you should be very, very careful not to electrocute yourself. This seems to be a Comcast/Verizon problem that neither wants to deal with and both will try to blame the other on. If you remove the wires and accidentally take out some active wires, whoever’s wire you cut will call their utility company to fix their problem.

  • I emailed my CM (Graham) about a messy utility pole, and he got the Office of Cable Television to lean on Comcast and Verizon. They came right out and cleaned it up.

  • I has 20 wires over my property when I moved in. I cut them all. The contractors that do the work for Verizon and Comcast rarely reuse lines so every time someone moves in or service is changed they just run a new line. Never taking down the old lines.

    I cut the all down. Lines do not have easement to run over your property unless it is part of city master plan. They have to run down the property lines off of the tension wire between poles.

Comments are closed.